Wave Staff and Wire Reports
LOS ANGELES — More than 12 years after she went missing after being released from the sheriff’s Malibu-Lost Hills Station, the county Board of Supervisors voted to increase and extend a reward offer for information leading to a conviction in the death of Mitrice Richardson.
Richardson, a 24-year-old Cal State Fullerton graduate was arrested Sept. 16, 2009 after being unable to pay an $89 bill at Geoffrey’s, a Malibu restaurant.
She was released about 1 a.m. the following morning from the sheriff’s station in Calabasas without transportation, a cell phone or her purse. She was never seen again.
She remained missing until August 2010, when skeletal remains were found by state rangers searching an abandoned marijuana farm in the unincorporated Monte Nido area, about 30 miles from the sheriff’s Lost Hills Station. The remains were identified as Richardson, using dental records.
The Board of Supervisors initially offered a $10,000 reward for information into Richardson’s disappearance in 2009, before her remains were found. It was re-established in 2010 and again late last year, but was set to expire March 20.
On March 15, the board voted to extend the reward, increasing it to $20,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for her disappearance and death.
The cities of Malibu and Calabasas also still have standing reward offers totaling $20,000 in the case.
After her release from the Lost Hills Sheriff’s Station, neighbors reported seeing a woman who may have been Richardson sleeping on a porch later that morning, but she was gone by the time deputies arrived. Sheriff’s deputies and volunteers mounted extensive air and ground searches, to no avail.
An exact cause of Richardson’s death was never determined, but authorities at the time insisted there was no sign of foul play — a contention challenged by her family.
Richardson’s disappearance led to an outcry by her relatives and others about the actions of sheriff’s deputies in their handling of her arrest and release.
Investigators have said they have found evidence in Richardson’s diaries and text messages that she was suffering from bipolar disorder and may have been awake for as many as five nights when she had what appeared to be a mental breakdown on Sept. 16.
Her mother, Latice Sutton, contended that authorities should have recognized her daughter’s erratic behavior as abnormal and given her a mental-health evaluation. Her father said she should have been placed on a 72-hour psychiatric hold, rather than being released.
The county’s Office of Independent Review concluded in a report that deputies at the Malibu station acted properly the night Richardson was released.
“Although station personnel offered Ms. Richardson the choice to remain voluntarily at the station jail until the arrival of daylight hours or her transportation, she chose to leave the station jail,” according to the
report, copies of which were released by the Sheriff’s Department.
The Office of Independent Review added that it had has closely monitored the department’s actions regarding Richardson’s arrest and subsequent release from custody and “each phase of the department’s efforts to learn what occurred at Geoffrey’s restaurant and at the station and to search for her,” the report stated.
The Office of Independent Review concluded that the station personnel acted legally and reasonably in taking Ms. Richardson into custody and then releasing her from custody.
Richardson’s family sued the county, and a settlement of roughly $900,000 was reached in 2011.